You step on the brakes, but alas they don't work. Now you suddenly see a spur of track leading off... You can turn the trolley onto it, and thus save the five men on the straight track ahead. Unfortunately… there is one track workman on that spur of the track. He can no more get off the track in time than the five can, so you will kill him if you turn the trolley onto him. Is it morally permissible for you to turn the trolley?
Most people would turn the trolley (BBC, 2014), indicating that saving five people and killing one, therefore choosing to save as many lives as possible, would be the permissible option. Some would even go as far to say that there is a moral obligation to turn the trolley and that simply being present in this situation, having the capacity to impact on the result, constitutes a commitment to participate. If this is the case, choosing to do nothing could be immoral if one considers five lives more important than one.
Alternatively, others may feel responsible for changing the projected course of the trolley, having killed the workman on the alternate track. Since the death of the five workmen is already foreseen in the situation, moving to another track may constitute a participation in the death of the one workman, making one partially responsible for the death when otherwise no one was responsible. Trolley Problem and Moral Theory which Best Resolves it.
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